|Top: Duck (left) and Lamb|
Bottom: House Salad (left) and Prawns.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Macroom’s Church Lane Restaurant
Blessed to have great food on the table
Church Lane is a multi-room restaurant in the grounds of a church in Macroom. The building itself was originally used as the sextant’s lodge and later as a family home. Since 2012, sisters Laura and Cheryl have been feeding locals and visitors alike. Many of the visitors are travellers on the main Cork-Killarney road that runs alongside but quite a few now make a special trip as the restaurant is well known for its high quality.
We had enjoyed that quality via their super Tapas menu some time back but, on this occasion, we went for the a la carte. Reading the menu you notice that quite a few local producers are suppliers here and now they've added local craft beer brewers, including 9 White Deer, to their drinks options.
And this a heads-up for you. If you make it as far as dessert, then do please try the Tiramisu. It is one of the very best around, maybe the best! Unfortunately it is a special and you could be unlucky if it's not on!
There is a very good choice of starters. CL went for the House Salad and was delighted with the mix of sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, pesto, and balsamic vinegar, all for €6.90.
And if she was happy I was even more so as I got a very pleasant surprise, both in its quantity and quality, with the Prawn Bruschetta (8.90), three pieces of gorgeous bread piled high with the prawns which had been pan-fried and were served with a dazzling garlic and cream sauce. An absolutely brilliant dish that also features in the Tapas menu.
My mains, though excellent, was almost mundane by comparison! But again it was perfectly cooked and delivered at the proper temperature and with a stylish presentation. This was the Pan-seared Lamb Cutlets with rosemary and garlic mash, fresh vegetables and a luxurious red wine jus!
The other mains was also dispatched with some gusto, this the award winning Skeaghanore Duck Breast on a bed of creamed spinach with potato gratin and wild berry reduction. Superb, as you’d expect and, of course, we had excellent side dishes as well.
Each of our mains cost €23.95. The amazing Tiramisu, that we shared, cost €5.75 as do all the desserts on offer. Had we known the Tiramisu was going to be so good, we’d have ordered two. Next time!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Two Special Days in West Cork
Bantry a Perfect Base
|Bantry Library in the morning sun|
Just back after two spectacular days in West Cork, two days when the sun shone non-stop. I drove through picture perfect scene after picture perfect scene: the sensational azure blue of the ocean and inlets, the bright yellow of the furze bushes. Just perfect. Lots of brown too, a relic of the winter, yet even that contained the promise of coiled up green waiting to shoot out to enhance and complete the picture in the weeks and months ahead.
First stop was Ballinascarthy, to take a look at the cross-roads memorial to Henry Ford, a full size model of the car-maker’s famous Model T. The slogan for this car, and for the stout of the same name now being sold by Black's Brewery of Kinsale, is: You may have any colour you like, provided it is black! The nailed-down Ballinascarthy model though is not black but a shiny silver. I suppose not too many would stop it were black.
Next stop was the seaside village of Schull with its lovely setting between Mount Gabriel and the sea. And just by the car park over the harbour, you'll find a cafe called Cois Cuain, perfect for a snack and, a tip, they have fantastic coffee here, Maher’s of course.
We continued west - we weren't taking the direct route to Bantry! Soon we were passing through Ballydehob and then lovely Goleen, heading for Mizen Head, Ireland’s most south-westerly point. A temporary cloud changed the light just as we arrived but the visit was brilliant. If you go out to the lighthouse - there is a reasonable fee - be sure and take the fenced path (with helpful hand-rails) up to where you can see the spectacular Dunlough Bay, probably even more spectacular on a bad day.
Time then to head to Bantry, via Durrus. Our base was the Maritime Hotel. And an excellent place it is, with very courteous staff, from reception, to bar to breakfast. Comfortable spacious rooms here, all with a view over the harbour. And breakfast is good. There is a hot buffet but here it is regularly refreshed. And you have the usual juices, meats and cheese too, and breads of course. No shortage at all. The long low rise hotel has its own underground car park and that, with a lift up to reception, is very convenient. Recommended.
There was a still an hour or two left of the afternoon and the regular Friday market was winding down as we strolled up the huge impressive square where statues of St Brendan and Wolfe Tone stand.
|Barleycove, on the way to Mizen Head|
We were heading for the Evans sweet shop (great photo here by Nicolas O'Donnell), a shop that is one hundred years old. We joined the small queue. The woman just ahead of us was buying hard liquorice sweets for “a suck” that night. Then three young girls were next but they very courteously indicated that we should be take their place in the line. We declined but, seeing the kids were possibly still making up their minds on what sweets to buy, we did take up the option.
After a lovely chat with Jennifer who has been here for many years, we decided to buy some clove rock cubes. “They are very fresh,” she said. And so we left with a small bag, nostalgia for just a euro. We should probably have bought more as she had a great choice of old time sweets including Bon Bons, Raspberry and Custard, Pear Drops and more.
|Market in the square in Bantry|
Dinner, and a good one it was, that evening was in the Fish Kitchen. They are building their craft beer list there and we sampled a few and, later, across the street at Ma Murphy’s Pub - you go through the grocery store to get to the bar - we enjoyed some draft Green Bullet by the Mountain Man. Back in the lovely bar at the hotel, with a singer (Neil Young and JJ Cale songs mainly) on duty, I had a very impressive bottle of Galway Hooker Pale Ale. Great label design on that one.
The morning was cool enough as I strolled out to the pier and had a chat with a guy stacking full fertiliser bags in readiness for the Whiddy Island ferry. Then we drove off up the road to Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey where Andrew told us of their plans for the season ahead, exciting plans too with an expanded restaurant service (serving local produce) and Culture Kitchen tours on the horizon with Val Manning as guide (should be fun!). We’ll bring you more details shortly when arrangements are further advanced.
|Nostalgia for a euro|
After the coffee, it was back to the car and on the road west. More of the spectacular blue water as we passed through sunny Glengarriff and headed for Adrigole and the Healy Pass. We stopped halfway up the winding road and immediately a car that had been behind us pulled in and the man got out and asked us if we needed help.
|Copper mines reminder|
We didn't, we were just going to take a few photos. But then quite a chat ensued and question after question followed and I reckon he found out more about us - ages, children, and more - than any internet investigator would. The elderly man, a local sheep farmer, was also volunteering info about himself and we enjoyed the chat. Soon, he was back in his car and speeding up the windy road, leaving us well behind!
At the top, we paused again, this time for quite a while to drink in the amazing views of the mountains, the lakes and the sea inlets beyond. Amazing place. Then we dropped down into Kerry for a while before turning left on the Ring of Beara Road and back into Cork. And one word of advice. Do take that windy, up and down road that hugs the coast and do stop and enjoy the views.
We passed through Eyeries and Allihies (above) and their colourful houses. Near Allihies, you’ll see remains of the copper mining industry and there is a museum and cafe in the village (it opens from April). And, of course, that amazing blue was out there to our right all the time, the frame changing from bend to bend. Our final stop was in Castletownbere itself and here we walked along the pier where many large fishing boats, not all of them Irish, were docked.
|Ring of Beara|
|Boats in Bantry|
About forty minutes later, we were back in the city after a brilliant two days in the west!
|Our Bantry base|
Monday, March 23, 2015
Beer Versus Wine
Colm v Caroline.
Colm v Caroline.
|Scrumptious Blackpudding from Jack McCarthy.|
Great flavours from the L'Atitude kitchen.
Lots of good humour and great drinks at the Beer v Wine Smackdown in L’Atitude last Thursday night where the protagonists were Caroline Hennessy and Colm McCan.
Caroline, co-author of the Irish beer bible Sláinte, made it clear at the outset that she was making the case for craft beer saying “the other beers have no flavours”. Her first beer, Black’s Kinsale Pale Ale, was a perfect example. “Hops are the spice of beer,” she said.
“Beer is just to wash away the dust”, joked Colm as he introduced his heavy hitting first, the Decanter Gold winning Wiston Rosé, an English Sparkling Wine, made in the South Downs by Limerick’s Dermot Sugrue. Both were matched with Hederman Smoked Mackerel with Rhubarb Compote from the L’Atitude kitchens.
Colm did admit he was a big fan of craft beer as he put a call, on speaker-phone, through to Dermot in the UK and they chatted about the huge honour received by Wiston when their wine, a twenty-bottle bottle of it, was chosen, instead of the traditional champagne, to launch the mega cruise liner Britannia.”Twenty minutes later the Queen was still saying wow”, referring to the pop (explosion!) when the Nebuchadnezzar made contact with the ship. See it here on video.
Ireland is fast becoming a big producer of all kinds of drinks, including spirits, and so Caroline decided to include cider as her second round choice. And the local cider she picked was the Stonewell medium dry, a great match with Jack McCarthy’s black-pudding and apples.
Colm said cider, in the way it is made, is the closest thing in Ireland to wine, “at the moment!” as he introduced his biodynamic 2012 Vinsobres from the Southern Rhone, “a winter-warming wine..with a natural acidity that should cut through the black pudding”. It sure did and even won the round with “victory” in round one going to the Pale Ale.
And then we were on to round three where Double Chocolate Porter Brownies were paired with Knockmealdown Stout and Taylor’s 2008 LBV. The stout, with its traditional flavours, is by Eight Degrees where Caroline can't help but be involved considering that husband Scott is one of the two founders. The brewery, set up in 2011, has been going well ever since. She said the current craft beer wave is well underway thanks largely “to a tax break in 2005 by then finance minister Brian Cowan”. Eight Degrees are just about to start a “massive expansion”.
Chris Forbes of Taylor's was next the next speaker on Colm’s phone and he explained some of the terms used in the port industry including LBV (late bottled vintage, all from one year). “Slow aging,” he said, “helps maintain the flavours and the tannins. The beauty of Port is that it cannot be made anywhere else in the world, only in the Douro. “We use all kinds of traditional grape varieties here”. He mentioned the various Tourigas and Tintos but he said the really important thing for Taylors was not the individual varieties but the blend itself.
|Contestants in round 2,|
paired with the pudding.
That attention to detail was evident in the LBV as it held its own with the brownies. The Stout was an excellent match, not surprising since a generous amount went into the Brownie mix! Then we had the voting, via murmurs of approval. Caroline and Colm had a round each to their credit and the final matching ended in a draw and that meant honours were even overall.
The point of all this is that there are very good wines out there and, increasingly, very good Irish beers and ciders. And now, the Irish is taking its place alongside wine at the dinner table and in the restaurant.
Here's my recent example. I spent 24 hours in Kinsale on the weekend before last and enjoyed craft beer Malt Lane and in Monk’s Lane in Timoleague. Last Friday and Saturday, I was in Bantry and sampled craft beer in the Fish Kitchen, across the road in Ma Murphy’s, in the Maritime Hotel and, on the way home, they had a selection in Church Lane in Macroom. Don’t think that would have happened 12 months ago. Point made!
The next “match” between Caroline and Colm is likely to be at Savour Kilkenny in the autumn.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Holy Tapas!When you're travelling between Killarney and Cork and need an evening bite, but not a full evening meal, where do you stop? I asked myself that question one evening last week and Church Lane in Macroom came to mind. Not quite. I must admit, I thought of Chapel Lane but a quick google search on the phone yielded the correct name Church Lane. It turned out to be a terrific choice.
The multi-roomed restaurant, which supports local producers, is right along side an old churchyard in Macroom and has a large enough outside space and it was there that we were seated.
Church Lane’s philosophy “is to serve food that is naturally full of flavour and goodness by cooking with seasonal ingredients locally sourced and from places we trust. West Cork and the locality is full of really excellent food producers and our menu showcases the best of local and artisan produce”.
Quickly decided on the wine and picked the Grant Burge Chardonnay Viognier (Australia) 2012, (€6.00 a glass) and the Lamberti Santepietre Pinot Grigio (Italy) 2013, (€6.20). Then we sat back in the sun. Water, breads, and menus were quickly delivered and we concentrated on the tapas menu. Really, most of them were small plates, more or less starter portions, and most cost just under a fiver.
They have quite a selection; some meat based, some fish based and some veggie options. As it turned out, the pair we choose were vegetarian and both were absolutely first class, a terrific balance of flavours and really well cooked. We thoroughly enjoyed the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with a red pepper bisque and shaved Parmesan (4.95) and Roasted Aubergine with tomato chickpea, spinach and smoked cheese (4.50).
They have two Sharing Plates listed on the Tapas Menu. One is a Mediterranean Charcuterie and Cheese Selection. The other, our choice on this occasion, was the Seafood Platter (smoked salmon, poached salmon, prawns, crab meat, and anchovies, all served with three dips and more bread, all for €19.95). This was another excellent combination of contrasting flavours and textures and, as we had eaten earlier in the day, was a perfect solution for this pair of travellers!
Wed - Sat: 12:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Sun: 12:30 pm - 8:00 pm